Calling all friends who use an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod touch

(with no offence meant to Android users  - we're just not quite there with that app yet).


We're looking for willing volunteers prepared to give up about an hour of their time, over the two weeks from 1 September, to test out an app and a revolutionary idea.


The app is called ScreenToGo and was developed by a PhD student at Imperial College, London (it’s not yet available through the app store). The task we’re asking you to perform on the app is a very simple classification task where there are only two possible options: Retain or Discard. The idea is to see whether those with little or no prior knowledge of a specialized topic can successfully perform the task based on a short demo viewed before they start.


Quite complex research and analysis can often be broken down into relatively straightforward classification tasks.  Such tasks may be quite simple to perform, but are often still better done by humans than computers. The task you would be doing is a task that has to be done for the organisation we work for, The Cochrane Collaboration (, and has traditionally been performed by ‘experts’. Our hypothesis is that actually this task doesn’t necessarily need to be done by ‘experts’ and in fact may be performed better through the ‘wisdom of the crowd’. 


A fantastic example of this form of ‘citizen science’ can be found on the Zooniverse platform (  Zooniverse host a number of similar classification task-based projects, and has been very successful in showing that by harnessing people power, it is possible to classify huge quantities of data in a short space of time, and keep research up-to-date.  


Will you help us test this idea and this new app and help bring a little more democracy to the sphere of biomedical research?  If we’ve still not quite persuaded you, here are some other reasons…


- you would be helping us out enormously


- you would be doing a good deed, albeit an unusual volunteering task


- you would be testing out an app that may be useful to you one day


- you can put that you took part in an innovative pilot study powered by Oxford University and the Cochrane Collaboration on your CV (you can even have a certificate for taking part)


- you will be acknowledged in any academic publication, which may arise from this


- you would be helping to demonstrate the possibility that reasonably complex,  time-consuming research can be done effectively through crowdsourcing and citizen science


- you might enjoy it!


Oh, and you if you were worried that we'll see your responses to the task, we won't, though you can request to find out how many you got right if you wish to know.


So, if you are interested then simply click here to send us an email, or visit our Facebook page and join the event.  After recruitment closes on 1 September, you’ll be sent further details of the study and how to download the app.


One final ask – even if you are not interested, please could you send this invitation to your Facebook friends, re-tweet, or whatever else you can to publicize this opportunity to anyone you know who might be interested (and who have an iPhone or iPad).


Thanks very much for reading all this!


Anna Noel-Storr and Caroline Struthers